Climate Action

UK campaigners propose free bus initiative to reduce pollution

Friends of the Earth has called for the transformation of the transport system to reduce emissions and meet forthcoming climate targets.

  • 05 February 2019
  • Rachel Cooper

Friends of the Earth has called for the transformation of the transport system to reduce emissions and meet forthcoming climate targets.

The call to action comes after a report found that the Department of Transport is failing its commitment to reduce climate change. New figures show that transport was the largest source of climate changing greenhouse gases in the UK last year.

Transport, mostly cars, were a significant source, making up more than a third of total emissions. There is well established data that shows the damaging affects road traffic can cause.

Exposure to ambient air pollution, in particular particulate matter, increases mortality and morbidity risks. In England, the total NHS and social care cost due to PM was estimated to be over £41 million in 2017. This number could rise if air pollution is not regulated.

Friends of the Earth has published a report, along with researchers at think-tank Transport for Quality of Life, to highlight what action needs to be taken to ensure emissions are reduced significantly.

The report found that to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with the Paris Agreement, the Government need to implement at least a 20 per cent reduction in car journeys, with a more rapid switch to electric cars.

Friends of the Earth recommends that interventions are implemented immediately to ensure this target can be met.

Mike Childs, Head of Research at Friends of the Earth, said:  “Dozens of cities across the world offer some form of free public transport. It would cost around £3 billion a year but this is a fraction of the money spent on roads. Three times more journeys are by bus than train and they are the main means of transport for the car-less quarter of the population. What we are seeing instead is bus fares rising 75% over the last 15 years, and over 3,300 services reduced or removed since 2010 in England and Wales.”

Presently, the Government has called for the ban of all sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. Environmental campaigners and some MPs have called for this to be bought forward to 2030 to ensure the UK is on track to meet targets set at Paris.

Lynn Sloman, Director of Transport for Quality of Life, said: “Transport policy should be evidence-led. Our research makes it clear that UK transport policy requires a complete overhaul to enable us to comply with greenhouse gas reduction needs and other pressing public health concerns such as air quality and obesity. We can learn much from other countries across the world, particularly on how to manage and deliver a well-regulated high-quality public transport service.”

Photograph: © Copyright Jaggery 

Read the full report here.